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Put my windlass back together -- works great!

As you may know, I took my windlass apart several weeks ago.
See the sailnet thread here
See the anything-sailing thread here
Saturday I put it together and Monday night I put it back on the boat. It works great. And get this, it has a reverse. That's right, before it just made a whirring noise while the anchor free-falled. Now it will actually pulls chain up out of the locker. (On the hard now, right up against a building, so I didn't test it with chain at 2:00 AM. That will require some careful hand lowering of the anchor to start with until I'm sure it can't swing into the building.)

First, I tackled the rust on the engine casing. If you remember, there was a significant amount of rust that would prevent the o-ring from getting a good seal. (I found out while mounting the windlass back on the boat that the engine is not supposed to get salt water on it. It was a sub-optimal installation. Of couse, they didn't have Maine Sail's instructions to follow with butyl tape - more on butyl tape later.)

Engine case

I sanded the rusted area (also used a wire brush some). Here you can see me sanding. I used a vacuum to keep the particles from getting into the motor.

Then I used newspaper and electrical tape to mask it off for painting. There is newspaper jammed up where the gap is seen, so I wasn't too worried about getting paint on the inside. I did it that way because I wanted the paint to get around the edge if possible.

Here is a shot of the motor ready for painting.

I used white Rustoleum. It's not the only preventive measure that I used - three total, so I think I ought to be good with Rustoleum here. I thought I grabbed my black Rustoleum. Much to my surprise, it came out white, even though the can said "clear". I guess you have to go by the color of the cap.

After spraying it, I kept an eye on it. I didn't want it to harden before I had a chance to implement the next step. Here it is, right by my back door.

I actually workond on the cover while timing the painted motor case just right. I used naval jelly on the cover, let it sit, and then added water so it could soak for awhile. I don't think the naval jelly was strong enough to get the scorch marks off the inside of the case. (I think I must have a new motor, becuase the motor has no scorch marks on it.)

While the paint was no longer really tacky, but not completely dry either, I unwrapped it and put the o-ring back on. I figure that the soft paint will mold to the shape of the o-ring and provide a good seal.

Here it is with the o-ring back on.

The cover fit over the o-ring. In fact, I left it on for awhile, while I did the next steps.

Now it was time to get the assembly underway. Here's a picture of the challenge:

Note that I kept my promise to do a better job covering the table with newspaper. Clean-up was pretty easy and my wife actually thanked me for cleaning everything up. I guess she was a little tired of having a disassembled windlass behind the couch. (That thing is heavy, no sense moving it very far.) And yes, our house has a few Steelers fans.

I have a lot of pictures that look like the second one below. Cleaning and greasing, cleaning and greasing. Anywhere there was grease, I cleaned and.. well, you know.

A tried to apply the grease evenly. The above picture was taken before I smoothed out the grease.

Here's a shot of the new $30 spring. When installing it, I noticed that it isn't like any other spring I've seen. It has a long "neck" that slides out.

See if you can figure out what broke-off and got stuck in the worm gear, by looking at these pictures taken in February:

I think we found the weak spot - that unique spring.

I installed one side of the spring and then I needed to lift the cam thingy (pawl?) up so I could attach the other side of the spring. It tried pulling up on it with an allen wrench.

Tried using a screw driver as a lever

Called my neighbor to come over and help, then tried using a wrench as a lever

Finally I succeeded by using a socket wrench as a lever. This is an "after" shot. See the pawl resting comfortably on the gear?

Here's a picture of the "giraffe" spring in it's natural environment. You can see the neck inside it.

From this angle you can see why such a unique spring is needed. Note that I didn't get the one screw in all the way. When I took it apart, this screw was not screwed in all the way and was slightly bent. I got a new screw, of course. If I'm back on here posting about a broken spring, maybe it's rattling around on a loose screw will be the cause. Anyway, take alook at the shape of that spring.

Next thing I did was to clean-up the o-ring around the big "hatch" piece. It got a lot of gunk on it during the process of disassembly and cleaning everything else. Here I show a screw driver, but I think smearing grease on it and then wiping the grease off was the most effetive way to clean it.

About this time I took a look at the sprockets on the main gear. You can see a little damage, ostensibly from where the giraffe spring got jammed between the main gear and the motor's worm gear. (I did not get any compensation for using the words ostensibly, giraffe and sprockets in the same paragraph. I think I may be one of the first to do so. That's one of the hidden benefits to posting on online forums.)

Next I put the heavy gear assembly back into the really heavy windlass base. No pictures of that, I was too busy lifting and grunting. Here I'm lifting the really light screws and putting them into the big "hatch" piece.

I thought I was short 2 screws. After I found them, I took it apart again and put the screws back on. SO there are some repeated steps that I'm not going to show.

After that, I greased more things and put them back together. I have no idea why I don't have any good pictures between the last one and this next one. I guess because everything went back together smoothly. There are things that mate with areas designed for friction, and I put an extremely light brushing of grease on them. They were a bit irregular from the passage of time, so I think it won't hurt the breaking action, but will protect the parts a bit. Other ares were clearly designed to have grease, so I cleaned off the old grease and put new grease on. (Remember that theme from above?)

Note the end part that has some red paint on it is really a big nut (kind of like some of the people around here). It's hand-tightened in this picture. I tightened it down more, after the other side was done. You'll see that later in this post.

Somewhere in here, my neighbor came over to help with that pawl spring. I told him he missed it and we talked a bit.

So next I put the key in place on the drum side of the windlass.

Then I notice that the next piece needed the key out, so I wiggled the key back out.

Here you can see a very interesting piece in place. It's the part that allows you to ratchet up the windlass by hand, instead of having to pull the handle out and put it back in again when manually raising the anchor. My daughter actually discovered this bit of functionality. It really made raising the anchor manually a lot easier. Ok, a little easier anyway. (And no, she didn't have to raise the anchor. I let her try it. Probably so she knew what daddy was doing up on the bow.)

Next I put the drum on.

Then I notice that you have to have the key in place before putting the drum on. So off came the drum and in went the key. I put a little grease on the inside of the drum. Note the 2 horizontal "spokes" that will fit onto the spring in an upcoming picture. You can see wear mark where the springs were seated before. (Not the circles on the vertical spokes.)

Here I used my "wooden mallet" to get the key to seat fully. Probably someone wiggled it out using a padded vice grip or something. A few very light taps did the trick.

At first I wasn't going to post this picture because it looks like it belongs in off-topic, but it's important to show the springs on either side of the shaft. (Seriously, this picture was not staged in any way. It does look like it was though, doesn't it?))

It's not that visible in this shot, but I had to line-up those two springs with the correct orientation of the "spokes" in the drum. I did this by lining them up as best I could and then watching the alignment as I slide the drum on.

Next I put on the bolt that holds the drum in place. I know I have a lot of pictures of this side of the windlass. The other side was a little bit different and equally as time consuming, especially to disassemble. One this side, everything slides on and off pretty easily, assuming you get the key installed in the right order.

With both side on, I can now tighten down the red-painted "big nut". There are slots where you put the big lever that you use to manually raise the anchor. There's one on each side. You put a file in one and a big wrench in the other one and you torque like you're screwing together a bolt and a nut - which you are, if you think about it.


Now there was something nagging me about the windlass motor. The wires leading to the brushes got a little beat up - by me - while I was turning the motor over during the sanding phase. The second picture in this post (above) shows the edge of the baking pan that the motor was sitting in. It rubbed the wire while I kept rotating the case for sanding. I noticed that bare wires were exposed and could conceivably come into contact with the (probably grounded) metal case. So with the assembly nearly done, I opened the motor back up. I'm glad I did too. Remember above when I said "There is newspaper jammed up where the gap is seen, so I wasn't too worried about getting paint on the inside"? Well I left one wad of newspaper up there. That would have caused a fire for sure. A small one probably, but it would have been a but disconcerting to see smoke coming out of something you fixed. In truth, the windlass is so sealed up now, I probably wouldn't have seen a thing.

Here's a shot of my applying electrical tape to the worn-through wire. I don't have any good shots of it, but I could see the metal wire exposed where the rubber-like insulation was worn away.

Here is a finished brush, held over the place where it goes into the motor. In all, I did 3 of the 4 brushes.

Did you even notice that sturdy looking o-ring? I bet you didn't. It just looks right, doesn't it?

This next shot is one of those money-saving pictures. I took this so you (and I!) can see the number on the brush. Maybe we can get these from a cheaper source than from Lofrans. There was some question about how much height is left on the brush. It looks to be a fair amount. The guy who owns it was raising his anchor by hand last year, so it didn't get much use then.

All the brushes are back in and the cover is back on. This next picture shows you where I'm going, for the second layer of protection for the motor. First I applied electrical tape to the base of the electrical connections, for waterproofing. I needed to do this because those posts are very close to the joint where the cover meets the housing.

It took a few tries to get that right. I had to get the post through in the exact spots I wanted to get an optimal seal around the bolts and over the joint. I had to see how it settled down against the housing and then do it over if it wasn't quite right.

Then I wrapped the whole joint with electrical tape, going around several times.

The tape got a little twisted when I tightened the lowest bolts back on, but it looks generally ok.

About this time I noticed that I had not installed the brake onto the outside of the windlass. This needs to be done before attaching the big reddish "nut". But I really tightened it on, and untightening it the same way was impossible, because the slot by the file (in the above picture) was actually part of a big ratchet -- just as my daughter discovered. So there was no un-torquing it like you do with a bolt and a nut.

So I improvised by using my "wooden mallet", er, claw hammer on the capstan.

It worked like a charm.

Last fall, when I took the brake off, I marked the places where the brake handle attached to the brake "belt" that goes around the capstan. I did this by threading pieces of newspaper onto the shaft of the brake. This "map" showed me how to put the brake handle back on.

The shaft of the brake handle was a bit bent.

I tried using my workbench-mounted vise. But what really worked was standing on it while it was turned the correct way for my weight to straighten it. That method worked much better that standing on Lexan to seat into a hatch frame. (Don't try that!) Anyway, I got it closer to straight and inspected it after the windlass was reinstalled onto the boat. It looks ok.

With everything coming together nicely, it was time to address getting the motor back on. First I was determined to make sure that motor cover was sealed against the rest of the windlass. I only needed a thin strip of butyl tape where the two pieces met. Cutting the tape with a knife was really difficult. So I came up with a nifty way of cutting the tape in half the long way. See if you can guess what I did from this picture.

It wasn't as easy at it looks. That tape is stubborn. It kept sealing back against itself. Finally I had to use small turns as I went along to "kick out" one side of the tape away from the other. Kind of like a guy carving turns down a ski slope - back and forth. If you are doing this, I'd suggest putting some padding betwen the tape and the table to get a better "imprint" from the pizza cutter into the tape.

The best way to apply butly tape is by keeping it on the backing strip as long as possible. I tried it the other way with less than stellar results. It stretches so easily (by it's own weight) that it's impossible to get a uniform thickness of the tape all the way around. Here you can see I applied one pizza-cut half at a time.

Here you can see the tape applied all the way around. This was my first time working with the stuff. It takes a bit getting used to, but you'll get the hang of it pretty quickly. Look, even the guy on the newspaper is cheering.

By the way, butyl tape it's basically Silly Putty on steroids. It even picked up the image off a newspaper and transferred it onto a piece of paper - just like Silly Putty does. (I had to try that, right?)

Now you won't belive this, but I wore a nice Brooks Brothers golf shirt this whole time. Sanity dawned on me and I changed into an old t-shirt. Right after that, it was time to take this picture. By then my wife had snatched up the shirt for the laundry. Kind of ironic and backwards, wouldn't you say? For grease, a nice shirt. For a picture, a crappy shirt.

Here is me putting the motor in. Note that this would have been a lot easier if I had applied the butyl tape afterward. (And even later than that, as I found out during Monday night's install.)

Have you noticed a common theme here? It's getting done, but not quite as smoothly as Maine Sail or Knotty would have done it! And Cruising Dad would have changed into the nice shirt for the picture!

You may have noticed that I was doing this in front of a window. About this time I looked up and saw the view. Kids on the trampoline and the dogwood tree in bloom. (Back yard needs to be picked up a bit. That's what happens when you focus on boat projects.) All in all, a great view.

I managed to get the motor back in place. With the butyl tape already there, I had to lower the motor with my hands also around the two long bolts. It was tricky but do-able.

Finally, it's all done!!!! (And this write-up of Saturdays work is nearing completion too!!!) Here is the reassembled windlass.

It's ready for mounting back on the boat and for the addition of some oil. (It think it needs 90 weight motor oil, I still have to get some.)

I'll have to write-up the installation work another time. In the meantime, I'm getting ready for some serious anchor-pull testing. My car is ready for the job!

You don't see many of those on the road!


Great minds discuss ideas;
Average minds discuss events;
Small minds discuss people.
The best minds discuss sailing (and a little bit of politics). I don't know why. It's a mystery!

Last edited by Bene505; 04-22-2010 at 02:07 AM.
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